Steady, and steadfast
Despite having life’s toughest challenges thrown at him, Eka Taufik Syah Putera, owner of oil and gas supply and services company PT Geo Link Nusantara, is proof that with grit and hard work anything is possible.
Eka Taufik Syah Putera’s career had the humblest of beginnings – the North Sumatra native started out busking on the streets as a teenager, before moving on to try his luck in the oil and gas industry after graduating from high school in 1993.
Putera started out in procurement. “I was a jack of all trades,” recalls the 36-year-old. “I never rejected a request, for the sake of feeding myself. I waited hours under a tree, hot and sweaty, until I was directed to find certain goods. I was a street procurement agent, a broker,” he explains.
From the start, Putera was convinced that with willingness and consistency, he would one day live a better life. “To reach where I stand today, I challenged myself to take advantage of whatever was in front of me, despite only having a high school diploma,” he says.
After a series of small-time jobs, Putera embarked on a proper career path as a goods procurement director at a foreign company, which sent him to Gujarat, India. Little by little, he saved up for the capital that he needed to build his own business.
“Being an entrepreneur had always been on my road map and I was determined to pursue that,” he says. “Nothing would stand in my way. To this day, work is always my priority, coming even before family,” he notes, a little ruefully.
In 2006, Putera founded PT Geo Link Nusantara (GLN), an oil and gas supply and services company, with some $1.2 million in its coffers. It seems a large sum, but Putera was a conscientious saver from the beginning. “My commissions went towards the capital; it helped me, especially because banks weren’t really supportive in lending me money.”
His dedication has paid off as the business has grown from strength to strength. Today GLN, occupying the fourth floor of Menara Global in Jakarta’s CBD and with Putera as chief executive officer, is worth $70 million. Consistency is key, he says, and it is something which he continues to keep in mind both professionally and personally. “Without consistency and the urge to prove that you can do something, you’re nothing,” he states.
Putera insists that there is no secret to his success. Everything is crystal clear, simply because he chose to go into a field that he knew well. “In oil and gas procurement, everything has to be transparent,” he says. “I went through tender after tender, just like any other organization. I made my own decisions and when we made a deal, I was in a position to negotiate directly as required. That’s how you earn a reputation and trust,” says the father of one.
The oil and gas sector is still fertile territory in which Putera and GLN can reap rewards. The company provides drilling, mud logging unit and drilling fluid services, as well as trading, supplying rigs and engineering, procurement, construction and installation (EPCI). The latter, Putera notes, contributes the largest share to the company’s earnings. GLN’s client portfolio reads like an industry Who’s Who, including Pertamina, Medco Energi, BP, Pearl Energy, Pacific Oil & Gas, Petrosalat Ltd., Bp Migas and ExxonMobil, among many others.
Says Putera: “My business grew step by step. In fact, it’s growing too fast, which is good and bad at the same time.” With more than 500 employees, GLN’s current projects include an integrated drilling project in Java with PT Pertamina EP, a 40-km oil pipeline infrastructure venture in East Java, as well as casing and tubing procurement projects for Pertamina EP, Pertamina Geothermal Energy and PT Chevron Pacific Indonesia.
“We have several projects coming up in 2012 which will boost earnings to $100 million. We are on target, yet it goes without saying that the responsibility is much heavier,” he adds.
“My company is no different than any other national or multinational company providing the same services. We all go through transparent tender processes and we provide the goods as requested.
“Competition is based on how we follow the procedures of the tenders – and it’s not a piece of cake. A single mistake or an incomplete document can foil our chances. Consistency and patience are virtues, and we will reap rewards if we continue to think this way,” he muses.
Not content with succeeding locally, Putera has spread GLN’s wings regionally in recent years. In 2009, he bought a 65% share in Alton International, a rig-building yard in Singapore. Putera says that step, and moving into rig-building in the near future, are important for the expansion of GLN’s profile and portfolio. “I’m planning for an IPO, but there are still many considerations,” he says.
“I have to be realistic – to make GLN more sustainable financially, I need support from others and I’m doing this as transparently as I can.” After securing financial support, GLN plans to expand its footprint to either Canada or Australia.
Balance, then, is never too far from the entrepreneur’s mind. Outside the office, Putera has personal interests in the local music and movie industries, backing jazz band Maliq N D’Essentials and serving as executive producer for Catatan Harian Si Boy, a sequel to a popular movie from the eighties.
A keen musician himself, Putera is about to release his second album, featuring a list of pop-rock songs that he wrote. He speaks a slew of languages, including French and several Chinese dialects.
And while he has certainly achieved enough to live the high life, Putera eats simply and relies on a trusty Toyota to get around town, reflecting his modest tastes and humble beginnings. He supports several orphanages financially, and serves as an angel investor to several entrepreneurs of small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Of those less fortunate, he states: “I was once in their position and I know how it feels – very unpleasant. There is already such a large social gap here, and I don’t want to add to it. Instead, I want to be the person who can share his fortune with those who need it.”